So What Did Spartacus Say?

I’ve been wrapped up in The Gladiators by Arthur Koestler about the slave rebellion led by Spartacus. I just googled Koestler and it turns out he’s a disillusioned communist

And like Ignazio Silone (Bread and Wine) and George Orwell (Animal Farm), he wrote an anti-communist novel called Darkness at Noon, which I’m going to have to go out and read.

Koestler had a truly amazing life, flying as a journalist over the North Pole aboard the Graf Zeppelin, being captured in the Spanish Civil War and exchanged for the wife of Franco’s favorite fighter pilot.

In Jerusalem in 1944 he tried to persuade Menachem Begin (who then had a 500-pound price on his head for the bombing of the King David Hotel) to abandon terrorism and accept a two-state solution. Give the guy points for trying.

The Gladiators was actually written before Darkness at Noon, and it clearly shows his disillusionment with Communism.

Spartacus’ (or is it Spartacus’s?) big problem, you see, was his own soldiers and followers. They were so into burning and raping and pillaging that it made it hard for cities to open up to them, and they didn’t have siege engines like the Romans.

But if they could only have given up the burning and raping and pillaging, every city in Italy would have welcomed them because everybody, especially veteran/farmers, were getting utterly screwed by a corrupt and venal system of large-scale plantation farming using slave labor.

Veterans would come home to see their childrens sold as slaves. Unchecked plutocracy.

Spartacus almost effects an alliance with the Cilician pirates and the Roman exiles in Spain under Sertorius, but that gets bolloxed up by a Roman naval victory, and after knocking off six or eight Roman armies, he finally gets stranded in Bruttium on the toe of the boot of Italy and his pirate buddies let him down and won’t take his army off to Thrace, where he’s from and whither he would like to retire.

Spartacus comes to the graveyard in Rhegium and sees a tombstone that reads “Titus Lollius lies here by the road so that the passing wanderer may say: Greetings, Lollius!”

“Greetings, Lollius!” says Spartacus, and, Kostler writes, “he smiled the good-natured smile of the old days.”